KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Column: Books and Writing

Stories of Me: a reflective review

by Laurie Steed , December 10, 2012Leave a comment

Photo credit: stusev

I recently saw Stories of Me, a documentary on the life of Paul Kelly, at the Luna cinema in Perth on a stormy day. I had needed to feel inspired. Being a writer –  working day-in, day-out on stories that often resist my best efforts – I at times feel despondent. At such times, I return to the voices I know: the people whose words give me flight, hope and pause for reflection.

It’s hard to believe that Paul Kelly ever feels as low but he says as much in the film, asking only for the next song. I imagine most writers have a similar Faustian pact: to ask, if not plead, for their next poem, story or screenplay.

For one so humble, Paul Kelly has made quite a name, and indeed it’s worth charting that success. It’s impressive to see that even early in his career he took calculated risks, consistently backing his vision, and writing the best music he possibly could.

I’ve often had Paul Kelly’s words on a bookshelf beside me. I first purchased his collected lyrics, Don’t Start Me Talking, in 2004. The book served me well, its paperback cover near fully bent back by the time I passed it on in 2009. In 2010, my father bought me How to Make Gravy: A Mongrel Memoir, a career retrospective mixing lyrics, tour notes and stories of Kelly’s life.

My life and Kelly’s songs have at times felt inextricably intertwined. ‘Carless’ on the tuckshop stereo while waiting for a hot dog and chips;  ‘Before Too Long’ blared out of a tinny car stereo while changing lanes in my first car – a hand-me-down Smurf-blue Toyota Corolla; me and my brother laid near-horizontal in white plastic lounge chairs as the opening refrain ‘To her Door’ drifted across a neighbour’s fence.

On his Nothing but a Dream tour, I recall a friend and me ‘holding it in’ at the concert. The two of us were three pints into the night and busting for the loo from early on, but were scared that if we went, we’d miss ‘Dumb Things’. As the concert continued, we grew fidgety. We relented halfway through ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’, the first song of his encore and rushed outside, well and truly spooked by the line snaking out of the gents. We jogged back from the car park ready to rock and then collectively groaned as the 144 beats per minute of ‘Dumb Things’ echoed out from a half-open stage door.

In hearing his songs, and reading his words, I often find release – a letting go of this strange tension between the things I write and the person I am; renewed hope that by opening my heart as a writer, I am doing something brave, honest, worthy.

I often listen to music as I write. Many writers are unable to write under such circumstances. I find music harnesses a racing mind, my thoughts slowed until fluid, dancing in and out of consciousness.

Writing this article, with Paul Kelly’s ‘Leaps and Bounds’ guiding me to greater reflection, I’m aware of the shared lineage between stories and songs. Paul Kelly’s ‘Everything’s Turning to White’ is based on Raymond Carver’s ‘So Much Water, So Close to Home,’ and the more astute listener will spot many such echoes in his work, not so much lifts as signs of a mind so eagerly devouring his world and the art that surrounds him.

It soothes many writers’ egos to pretend they are the great creator, God-guided as they shape their fictional worlds. In watching Stories of Me, I again realised that when it comes to creativity, the truth is somewhat more complex. That, in writing, we are drawing from the best songs we’ve heard, guided by those we’ve never met; that we’re drawing from memories, hopes and fears; that, in working our lives we’re working with stories, passed down and shared, from people still living, and those long gone.

It seems, in writing, that our ‘stories of me’ are often stories of us, our voices on their way to being heard, appreciated and reinterpreted.

Laurie Steed is a writer, editor and Killings columnist. He is currently completing his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia.




9781926428239

Abigail Ulman

Cold Feet and Hot Little Hands: Abigail Ulman on writing – and not writing – her first book

Post-book deal, every time I sat down to try to write something, I felt paralysed by some kind of literary stage fright. I had shown my work to other people before – for writing workshops, and submissions to literary journals and competitions – but I had never before written a story while thinking This story is going to be published in a book. Or, more accurately, This story idea is nowhere near good enough to be published in a book. Read more »

9781926428239

Sian Campbell

Girlhood and The Woman-Child in Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands

Each of the stories in Hot Little Hands navigates girlhood in some way, from the lives of high school-age teenagers to those of young twentysomething women. ‘Girl things’ such as horse camp, gymnastics, feminised bodies, clothing, periods, crushes, yoga and gossip weave through the fabric of the text. Though the subject matter is often adult – the girls of Hot Little Hands navigate abortion, sex trafficking, young motherhood, drugs, and deportation – the girls themselves are not… even when they technically are. Read more »

Dont-Try-This-at-Home-_-cover_-FINAL1-300x460

James Tierney

Subscriber Stories: Angela Readman’s Don’t Try This At Home

As a subscriber to publisher And Other Stories’ distribution model, I am in the unusual position of reviewing a book – Angela Readman’s short story collection Don’t Try This At Home – that thanks me by name for making its existence possible. Read more »

amy-schumer

Rebecca Shaw

Amy Schumer and the equal right to be funny

I don’t think men should be banned from making jokes about contentious subjects. I am of the belief that anything can and should be laughed about, and if done right, it can be beneficial. But more often, women are doing it right, and women are doing it better. Read more »

womens-home-companion

Kate Iselin

Trivial Pursuits: The media and ‘women’s interests’

Women, especially in public life, exist as a part of men’s worlds – a big part, sure – but still a part. Even as women become more vocal in demanding accurate and respectful representation, we are kept at arms length by a mainstream media which struggles to catch up. Read more »

SGbTsPQ

Rebecca Shaw

Command and Control: Trophy daughters and overprotective dads

There is no doubt that an overprotective parent is better than a parent who couldn’t care less what their child gets up to. And there is no doubt that most overprotective mums and dads are well-meaning. But paternal ‘protectiveness’ shticks often boil down to fathers not wanting their daughters to have sex, and by extension, get pregnant. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

kstew

Joanna di Mattia

Kristen Stewart Through the Looking-Glass

Kristen Stewart is an actress who has been criticised, maligned even, for an acting style that transmits from set to screen as sullen, adolescent, wooden, blank, fidgety and inelegant. But perhaps she’s an actress concerned with authenticity, and the defining feature of her style is to show us herself by appearing like she’s not acting at all. Read more »

it-follows-4

Anwen Crawford

Behind You: The subtler horror of It Follows

I don’t watch many horror films. Lifelong victim of an overactive and slightly morbid imagination, I regularly envisage disasters, natural or otherwise, that might befall me, without requiring the added stimulus of cinema. Read more »

Struggle+Street+KEY+IMAGE

Anwen Crawford

Shame and Stigma on Struggle Street

Struggle Street framed poverty as a combination of genetic inheritance and natural disaster – a barrier to be overcome only through ceaseless positive effort. Those who sabotage themselves through bad choices are therefore fair targets for our scorn, while those who gain employment or remain sober deserve praise for overcoming the odds. The deserving and undeserving poor, in other words. What an old story. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

16741557134_5206bec0cd_k

Jane Howard

Dark Side of the Rainbow: Belvoir St Theatre’s The Wizard of Oz

This production of The Wizard of Oz is ‘after L Frank Baum’: after his book, after the 1939 film, and after our collective memories of both. Fragmented, non-narrative, and largely wordless, it relies on our existing knowledge of the text to build a work of images and emotion, and in doing so demands an extreme generosity from the audience. Read more »

Arts House_Image_10c_Oedipus Schmoedipus (post)_Credit – Ellis Parrinder copy

Jane Howard

A Case for Diversity in Theatre

Attracting different audiences to the theatre is about many things. It’s about accessibility for people without high disposable incomes, but it’s also about marketing and publicity; about creating venues which are physically accessible for people with disabilities; and about ensuring the performers on stage are as diverse as we want their audiences to be. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »